Thursday 12 November 2015

Interview with Jossy Yendall

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Jossy Yendall, an inspirational performer from Gateshead, UK, and beauty pageant queen. Hello Jossy! 
Jossy: Hello Monika!
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Jossy: I’m an aspiring model and actress from the North East of England. I also love to belly dance and sing jazz standards. I love R&B music, vampire mythology, and animal print.
Monika: You hit the headlines this year when the British media covered your participation in Miss Transgender UK. Did you like the contest?
Jossy: All in all, it was a good experience as I do believe that the pageant has opened a few doors for me. What drew me to this pageant was the fact that it wasn’t based on looks, but was more about how, as transgender women, we are able to be positive role models and contribute to society.
I also managed to gain more self-confidence, which is something that I do struggle with. So even though I didn’t win the grand prize, I still am proud of what I achieved, and it really motivated me to take my modeling and acting career seriously.
The pageant was followed by a documentary crew, (Minnow Productions) and will air on BBC3 (Date TBC). I wasn’t a ‘main role’ in the documentary, so I don’t know how much footage of me will be used, but I just hope I come across well.

Photo by Amy Joelle Hanna.

Monika: What was the atmosphere among the pageant contestants? Did you have a chance to make friends with some of them?
Jossy: When I entered the pageant, I never thought that I would make friends, but I am glad to say that I did. I consider Fay Louise (Miss Transgender North) to be one of my closest friends now; the pageant was a journey for both of us and we are both from similar backgrounds and of the same age. I’ve actually known of her for years, we mixed in the same circles up North but we just never met until the pageant. To say there was an atmosphere amongst other contestants would be an understatement. Can’t say too much on this until the documentary airs.
Monika: It was not your first pageant. You took part in Newcastle’s Alternative Model in 2012 and Drag Idol in 2013 …
Jossy: Newcastle Alt. Model 2012 was my first ever experience with modeling, I was in a play at university and various members of the cast kept saying that I would make a good model. I saw a casting for the contest and I’ve been slowly building up my career ever since. The same goes for Drag Idol. I think that most girls do drag BEFORE they transition, but I’ve always done things a bit differently. I began drag performance after being in transition for about 8 years.
For me, drag was something fun and was a way for me to express my gender in a performative way. In my everyday life I blend in and ‘pass’ well, so drag was a way for me to exaggerate my femininity. My ‘Drag Sister’, Honey Lingus, encouraged me to take part, again I’m glad I did as I got to the semi-final and also on the back of it got some performances on the local Gay Scene and also performed twice at Northern Pride in ‘The Trans Zone’.
Monika: While preparing yourself for pageants or shows, does anyone help you with your outfits, make-up, and hair?
Jossy: A lot of the time, I just do my own make-up and hair, unless stylists are provided. My signature look is winged eyeliner and red lipstick.
I took part in a promotional photoshoot for The Daily Mirror, and the makeup artist there said that the only other celebrity client who used the porcelain foundation was Sophie Ellis- Bextor, I thought that was quite cool.
My gala dress for the final was designed by a local Newcastle-based designer, Christopher Niari. I know him through the drag scene and he’s had collections showcased at Newcastle Fashion Week. I gave him some ideas about how I wanted my dress to look but gave him full creative control. The dress he designed exceeded my expectations and I almost cried when I saw it for the first time.

Backstage at a photoshoot.

Monika: What kind of clothes do you wear every day? Do you have your favorite fashion brands, colors, and styles?
Jossy: I do love designer labels, but unfortunately I just don’t have designer money. My favorite fashion house is Yves Saint-Lauren, love women in suits and I think that YSL was one of the first brands to put women in suits.
My Mum used to wear YSL’s Rive Gauche perfume back in the ’80s, that scent reminds me of her (although I wouldn’t wear it myself, my signature fragrance is Shalimar Initial by Guerlain).
I LOVE animal prints, it’s a bit of a trademark of mine. My everyday style just depends on what I’m doing, I like dressing smart for the right occasion but I also love just chilling in a nice comfy sweatshirt and leggings.
Monika: With your talent, beauty, and intelligence, you would be a great actress or model. Have you ever thought about acting or modeling?
Jossy: Yes, I feel that now is the right time to take my modeling career to the next level. I am looking to get the agency signed, it’s a bit exhausting because you really have to put yourself out there.
Acting has been a passion of mine since I was about 8 years old. I started performing in Amateur Dramatics at that age, and I’ve loved the stage ever since. I recently graduated from Northumbria University where I did a degree in performing arts. At university, I was exposed to many different types of performance and theatre, so I have a good understanding of the subject.
Monika: Do you have any favorite actresses or movies?
Jossy: My Grandma gave me an appreciation of the classic Hollywood actresses. I love Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, Bette Davis, Rita Hayworth, Joan Crawford, Judy Garland, Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, and Dorothy Dandridge (to name but a few). They were always so glamourous and had such interesting lives.
Monika: At the moment you are a drag performer. Could you say a few words about your shows?
Jossy: I don’t do drag anymore. I never wanted to make a career out of drag performance; it was more of a hobby. The best show I ever did (and also the last ‘official’ show) was at Northern Pride in 2014.
I performed a 40 minute set with Honey, the show went down a storm and we managed to fill the tent we were in. Our show paid homage to our favorite Divas, such as Donna Summer and Barbra Streisand, En Vogue, Brandy & Monica, Cleopatra, Maria Callas, TLC, and BeyoncĂ©. It was a bit of a mixed bag, but that’s what makes a good show. It needs to have variety otherwise people get bored.

Photo by Jessie Edwards-Thomas.

Monika: Being beautiful always produces a lot of girl power and empowerment. Do you often use it?
Jossy: I’m just a regular girl who wants to make a difference in the world. Even if it's just in a small way. I think anyone can have an inner power, regardless of their gender identity.
Monika: At the time of your transition, did you have any transgender role models that you could follow?
Jossy: I ‘came out’ around the time that Nadia Almada was in Big Brother, so she certainly had an influence on me when I was in my teens. My very first memory of seeing and knowing a transgender female was back in 1998 when Dana International won Eurovision. I was only 11 or 12, but she did make an impact. There are more transgender role models now, which is great. I think there needs to be more than just one or two famous trans women, there is room for all of us, and we all are different, and people need to see this.
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Jossy: The fear of what people would think. At the time I was coming out, I wasn’t in a good place mentally. I had no friends and never left the house. I had developed a social anxiety disorder in my late teens (which looking back now was all connected to gender dysphoria). I used to worry a lot about what people would say and how it would affect my family. I’m so lucky that my family is accepting of me though as I know that this is not the case for other trans people.
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in British society?
Jossy: I certainly think that things are getting better for us. When I first began my journey, there was still a bit of a stigma and ‘shame’ attached to being trans. Well, that’s how I perceived things. But now, I find that cis-gender people are more accepting. We need to remember though, that we are ALL on a journey, the journey of life, that applies to EVERYONE, not just trans people.
Monika: Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Jossy: I stay out of politics. I am a performer, an entertainer and if I can make a difference by just being true to myself, then in some ways, I believe that I am helping to make a change. You never know who could be watching you when you perform, and some young person who has doubts about their assigned gender might see me owning the stage, and think to themselves, ‘if she can do it, so can I’. To me, that’s a pretty amazing thing.

Photo by Lorraine @ Sugar Shots Photography.

Monika: The transgender cause is usually manifested together with the other LGBT communities. Being the last letter in this abbreviation, is the transgender community able to promote its own cause within the LGBT group?
Jossy: Like I said, I stay out of politics. I think that some Trans people are just caught up in the whole ‘Trans’ community that they cannot seem to see past that. I didn’t transition to be transgender; I transitioned because I AM a woman. I understand that not everyone will agree, and I love and accept non-binary people. We are all HUMANS, and that’s the point I like to make. 
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Jossy: I like to keep my love life private, but I am single and on the lookout for a King. 
Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Jossy: I have just been selected as a Grand Finalist in the Ms. Galaxy Pageant. This pageant is for all women, it’s not just for transgender women. I am very excited about this. I have also recently been appointed an Ambassador for The Alternative Fashion Fest, which will tour nationally next year.
In the next 5 or so years, I would like to be agency signed and have regular acting and modeling work. I have no desire to be famous, but I do want to be successful and show other people that you can achieve things if you are willing to work for it.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls, dreaming about participation in a beauty pageant?
Jossy: My advice to others is to do what makes you happy but be prepared to work for it. I think that the majority of pageants now focus on more than just physical beauty, so you need to have a decent personality. Don’t do a pageant just to benefit yourself either, judges always prefer girls with genuine intentions, so if you really want to make a difference then do it! Also, don’t take it so seriously that you become a nightmare pageant queen. Keep yourself in check and remain humble and grounded.
Monika: Thank you for the interview and good luck with your career! Fingers crossed!

All the photos: courtesy of Kossy Yendall
© 2015 - Monika Kowalska

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